Category Archives: City Growth

ANZ Night Time Economy Forum Explores ‘The Sleeping City’

How can  the Sydney CBD become   a 24/7 Night Time Economy (NTE) and what lessons can we learn from it and other cities, regional towns and international examples to create a model for the future of the night economy across Australia?

The ANZ Night Time Economy Forum held on the 12th to 14th June 2019 and chaired by Dr Jonathan Drane brought many of these  issues to life and went beyond the typical tourist and event based analysis of this subject.

When Sydney (and other Australian cities and towns) substantially shuts down at 10 pm and relies predominantly on its transient visitor populations to feed its night activities, there is a long  way to go. The ANZ Night Economy Forum dealt with these issues taking the debate beyond the tempting focus on transient visitation solutions to the strengthening of the more permanent ‘structural’ aspects of the ‘city and place economy’ that might lend light to the creation of the 24/7 night economy of the future.

The forum brought together government agencies, local government authorities, industry, academia and legislators across Australian from Perth to Canberra, Hobart, Sydney and the Gold Coast then to regional settings like Lake Macquarie, Townsville, Newcastle and to Wellington in New Zealand and more. The cohort sought to not only understand big city, big population night economies but small vibrant regional examples and strategies.

Contributing to this complex, exciting topic were politicians, city planners, economic development managers, city precinct officers, urban designers, architects,consultants, retail businesses, industry associations and developers. Night economy market participants spanned areas from music to creative spaces and entertainment venues and into the international arena.

Many questions and issues arose and a framework for understanding the NTE arose:

How can Sydney maintain economic ‘night continuity’ when it relies predominantly on a transient population and not a more permanent ‘structural’ population and associated offerings. Events like Vivid and the Sydney Festival sporadically bring millions of visitors, but what happens ‘after the parade’. The canvass of the city at night it would seem is one of darkness with intermittent lit precincts and enclaves. The harbour foreshore lights up from the Opera House through the Rocks, Walsh Bay to Darling Harbour but the inner canvass is spotted with night precincts and enclaves such as Kings Cross, Angel Place, Cowper St Wharf  and more.

Meanwhile every work day, between 1 and 1.5 million people (1) come and go from the city in a transient daily migration of workers, tourists and other visitors.  But what is left in the city offerings between these migrations, and how does it resemble or become a night economy let alone a 24/7 city that never sleeps?

In amongst this transience, the Sydney Peninsula (Circular Quay to Haymarket- Darling Harbour to Botanical Gardens) has only 17,252 (ABS 2016) residents- its permanent ‘structural population’. Even the whole Local Government Area of Sydney and its population of 208,374 (ABS 2016) is not as large as Blacktown’s (Australia’s largest LGA by population at 336,962). Around 65,000 people of the 100,000 working residents who live in the local government area work in the peninsular.

See ABS Stats Page

Manhatten, the city that never sleeps, by comparison, has a permanent population of approximately 1.6 million and during the working week this swells to 3.9 million (2)  as a comparison. On this point also, right on our geographical doorstep is the power house of the Asiatic Cities and their vibrant night-scapes, which in some cases claim a longer history than the European and American examples.

And how can our city office towers and retail offerings afford to be empty of commercial activity  8 to 10 hours during the late evening and morning period. In the creation of these megalith towers, they are valued both commercially and economically on the assumption of   24 hour ownership, lease and usage and yet they often sit empty in the night hours? How much investment value and economic activity is being lost?

To give some historical perspective to these questions,  in the 1960s it was a common saying that you could fire a cannon down George St after 5pm. This was not some idea of insurrection but a statement that the so called city was really a glorified town formation with little resident CBD population and evening  offerings.

It is also in hindsight, a strange polarity that the re-known night time economy of that time revolved around a weird and rather advanced mix of dodgy night clubs and unprotected sex workers in Kings Cross.

The forum sought to define how a city can create a night time economy that goes beyond traditional examples of  restaurants, theatres, cinema, pubs, night clubs (and sex). The landscape of night time is divided into evening economy versus late night economy separating the concept of dinner related early evening activities to late night entertainment and clubs which in themselves have attracted controversy and restrictions due to alcohol/drug related violence and associated restrictions and curfews that remain the subject of intense debate.

The night time economy builds our economic profiles and international attraction but also attracts problems which were also addressed with expert speakers in this area from Lockout to other examples of greater access.

At the community end of the night time economy lies the safety benefits of people in the city at night from people returning home from work, to those heading out for a night shift. Homeless people benefit from government and benevolent services that extend into the evening from shelters and related services to libraries and government support agencies.

At the city planning end of the equation, how do we plan for these changes and indeed is planning the correct method for activation of such precincts and outcomes. Do we use stimulant instruments such as Mixed Zoning or do we instead as City Builders take a more proactive role and design and develop precincts with development bodies. Do we take the examples of Barangaroo, Darling Harbour, City West and Honeysuckle in Newcastle to create catalyst related precincts. Do we plan, design or develop a Night Time Economy.

Another consideration is the restraint that our city and town formations bring to us in historical terms. The typical regional town formation for example was designed with small resident populations in the town centre while the population worked and lived in the rural catchment surrounding the town centre. In the beginning, there were also no shopping centres, which is hard to imagine and in effect the town formation of old was the regional shopping centre. The two storey ornate formations of our historical towns is testament to this era and they held only shop top housing and no megalith apartment towers which only recently form the basis for a structural population that feeds on the streetscape below. The question arises how do we adapt low resident town formations to a vibrant night economy?

At the infrastructure end of things, how do we support a mobile vibrant night population with a safe transport option that does not rely on cars and car parking? How do we stop millions of people migrating across the face of our cities in a daily migration at peak hours and is this part of the night time economy solution or formula?

On the issue of sustainability and environment the recent election has reinforced the need for climate urgency but the validity of jobs and the need to feed our families. Even more compelling – is utilising our city infrastructure and city buildings 24/7 the city’s version of burning the candle at both ends?

These questions and concepts were the subject of review by experienced speakers who shared experience, examples and case studies to help us through the conundrum. Dr Drane ran a workshop see web page on the first day with several Local Government Authorities and other industry attendees covering ‘city precinct activation’  and to shift the emphasis from a purely economic lens to a ‘place economy’ and precinct/enclave focus.

Despite our existing vibrant night life precincts in our major city centres, our cities in general have a long way to go in the conception and realisation of these exciting new offerings.

Meanwhile the statistics show that there is a huge missed opportunity for our economy from the creation of an NTE. The Greater Sydney night time economy  employs 234,000 people (2017) and has the potential to rise from its current annual value of  $27.2B to $43.3B, an increase of $16.1B (3).

Out of the findings of the  ANZ night time economy forum we can further the debate, understand the issues and plot a path to the future of our cities both day and night with an emergent framework of understanding.

Stay tuned to Dr Drane’s web site for further updates on these frameworks and associated research initiatives which are designed to bring light to the night time economy.

Dr Jonathan Drane


  1. Sydney City Council: The City at a Glace Viewed15 July 2019. 1.5million noted in forum.
  2. World Population Review: Manhatten Population,  Viewed 15 July 2019
  3. Imagine Sydney – Play 2019- Deloitte- Viewed 15 July 2019


Other Related Articles and activities by Dr Jonathan Drane:

Dr Drane was invited as Chairman for ANZ Night Time Economy Forum, Sydney, June 12th to 14th.

Dr Drane Master Class on Night Time Economy  run at ANZ Night Time Economy Forum, Sydney June 12th see web page and topic:

City Planning and Design for Night Time Economy: Building Vibrant Spaces After Dark: Learn More

Creating a Night Economy: Do we plan it, design it or develop it, as city builders. Read Dr Drane’s article.

Creating a Night Time Economy: Plan, design or develop?

Dr Drane’s Master Class on Street Activation run at Night Time Economy Council’s Workshop

Is B4 Mixed Use Zoning a Blunt Instrument or a Catalyst for Change?

Outer West Dormancy Study Workshop held to define research on city precinct activation.

Creating a Night Time Economy: Plan, design or develop?

Dr Drane invited as Chairman for ANZ Night Time Economy Forum, Sydney, June 12th to 14th.

Dr Drane Master Class on Night Time Economy to be run at ANZ Night Time Economy Forum, Sydney June 12th see web page and topic:

City Planning and Design for Night Time Economy: Building Vibrant Spaces After Dark: Learn More

Creating a Night Economy: Do we plan it, design it or develop it, as city builders. Read Dr Drane’s article.

Creating a Night Time Economy: Plan, design or develop?

Understand the History of Property Development and Discover the Foundations of Entrepreneurship: Mirages, White Shoes, the 80s and the GFC

Understand the History of Property Development and Discover the Foundations of Entrepreneurship: Mirages, White Shoes, the 80s and the GFC:

Dr Drane’s Greenshoots Update

Dr Jonathan Drane: Greenshoot News Update

Regional City Growth Dynamics: A Research Focus

I have recently left academia after 6 years at both UNSW Built Environment and then Western Sydney University’s School of Business. I am returning to my prior independent research and advisory profile which I have operated through Greenshoot Investments since 1993 which will aim to grow into a research and teaching centre in its own right as time goes by.

The Outer West Dormancy and Growth Dynamics Research Project which started during my MBA at MGSM in the 1990s then through my doctorate at UNSW and continued in my time with WSU will continue, and I will be seeking funding, sponsorship and collaborations. But early days.

See my research page which pays tribute to MGSM, UNSW and WSU where the dormancy research found its genesis, grew and now matures as time goes by.

For More Information :

The Parlous State of Contemporary Property Development 

The Property Development Industry in the commercial multi-apartment sector is plagued by the advent of DIY developers who clearly did not get the memo related to quality and integrity through the application of professional practices. When this resulted in two girls having to jump off a balcony to escape a fire and the death of one of those girls ( Bankstown 2012)  , the industry finally said no.

This research found its genesis through my chronicling of the degeneration of professional property development practices while at UNSW City Futures where I was invited to write a conference article and speak on what I thought was the boring subject of defects. To my surprise, the audience was lit up by the talk and paper, because it brought to life the decay of property development professional structures over several decades.

A simple article grew into an invited appearance at the National Building Regulatory Summit in February 2018 where I found myself an accidental historian of the industry. There I chronicled the decay in development structures across finance, design, construction and statute, an integrated view previously unseen.

For More Information:

Property Development Master Classes: ‘Work Ready’ and ‘Street Wise’

The universities continue to attempt to steer coursework and offerings toward an ‘industry ready’ framework and for students to be more ‘fit for purpose’.

With this in mind, I am offering a number of  online webinars for College and University students (undergrad and postgrad), which are designed to supplement their current College and University studies and help their career aspirations to come to life in the complex and exciting world of commercial property development.

The Master Classes are designed to provide  real life skills and street smart tools to get students on the road to success. Whether they want to  follow a career employed in property development and/or become a property developer in their own right.

The first master class is in three sessions in early November. You can learn more or book a seat here:

Book Here

Thank You Academia

I have spent a lifetime in the commercial property development and construction industry and been a property developer in my own right. Over those years I have mentored executives and managers and lectured to hundreds of students across four academic institutions including Sydney University, UNSW, WSU and ICMS. I am also an alumni of UNSW and MGSM.

I have loved working with the students and teaching is in my wiring. Being a creature of the wilderness and not the citadel, I now stand on the outside looking upward at these past institutions, my teachers and colleagues. Thank you for helping to get here. I look forward to working alongside some of my past colleagues toward issues heralded in the initiatives above.



Dr Jonathan Drane

Director Greenshoot Investments

and Optimum Search est 1993



Newcastle Revitalisation Programme – City Walk Through – A SFAUDI Event

Newcastle Revitalisation Programme – City Walk Through – A SFAUDI Event

(Sydney Forum for Architects and Urban Designers) (SFAUDI)

Hello Colleagues

Those who are interested in the Newcastle revitalisation programme including the light rail, here is a great way of catching up on latest events. Thanks to SFAUDI who are the host organizer and Hamish Robertson (see below).

Dr Jonathan Drane

School of Business, Lecturer in Property, Western Sydney University

Contact 0412996258,

Researcher: Regional Study of Dormancy and Revitalisation

Newcastle Walk Through Details below:

On Saturday, April 28th, SFAUDi member David Wilson, who is Principal of Transit Network Planning with Transport for NSW, will be showing us around Newcastle, for an update on the Newcastle Transformation and Transport Program, including the Stage 2 extension to the light rail from Stage 1, which is now under construction, plus a short presentation about the Newcastle Revitalisation Program. The walk starts at the Newcastle Interchange and is followed by a walk through the Honeysuckle Precinct, a ferry trip to Stockton, and then lunch. The visit will last a few hours, so we need to arrive in the city preferably by 11.00am. David has suggested some options for train times, listed below. Again, please let us know if you can join us – it promises to be a fascinating and memorable outing.

Best regards,

Hamish Robertson



Trains on Saturdays leave Central Station at 16 and 46 minutes past the hour.

The 8.16am train from Central arrives Newcastle at 11.01am or

The 8.46am arrives 11.51am in Newcastle.

Trains from Newcastle returning in the evening only depart once every hour at 54 or 55 minutes past the hour

The 16:54 from Newcastle arrives Central at 19:59pm

The 17:55 from Newcastle arrives Central at 20:29pm

Either of these train options would allow just under 6 hours in Newcastle for the visit

The Sydney Forum for Architecture and Urban Design Inc is a not-for-profit association incorporated in the state of New South Wales, dedicated to exchanging ideas on …

Study of Dormancy and Proliferation in Outer West Centres – Sydney Basin

The Outer West of Sydney: The Great Dividing Range

The Outer West of Sydney: Where is the Great Divide?

Date: 18 May 2015 ( archival re-publication)

By Dr Jonathan Drane

At a university seminar last week, a recognised city strategist ended his talk with the words” what is Sydney going to do with Parramatta?”. The question may be “ What is Parramatta going to do with Sydney”.  The new Plan for Growing Sydney DOP&E Dec 2014) features a revisionist view of the Sydney metro right out west  to the mountains (see attached). The emphasis has been influenced greatly by the considerable voting power of the ‘wild west’ and the strong and sophisticated advocacy machines of such regional centres as Parramatta and Penrith and others. Their position on the map as strategic centres highlights that this is pulling the ‘great divide’ between east and west toward the Blue Mountains. So where is the great divide between east and west of Sydney?

If you asked someone from Rose Bay where the west of Sydney starts, they might say Strathfield? If you ask a Penrith or Parramatta person they would see some humour in this. The perception of the great divide between east and west has been the subject of regional irritation by those cities in the west who are forging a new direction for the face and complexion of Sydney to the Blue Mountains. Part of the realisation of a new vision and identity for the west, should surely  start with the question “where exactly is the west of Sydney?.

Dr Jonathan Drane

Read this article as a pdf:




The Palmer Street Story

Case Study- The Palmer St Precinct 2012

Date: 1 June 2015

By:    Dr Jonathan Drane

A study of the proliferation of buildings in the Palmer Street and Railway Precincts Townsville, Far North Queensland Australia.


“The Evolution of our Dining Mecca’ Townsville Bulletin, 2008, June 28, Page 7   raggatt-2008-evolution-of-dining-mecca

Townsville is a regional city in Far North Queensland, Australia. It is often described by Queenslanders as ‘the capital of the north’, and enjoys a mult- sector economy which includes, government, defence, tertiary education, resources and tourism, together with one of the major ports in Australia.

In 2003 to 2007 two cityscape precincts in Townsville were subject to intense development stimulation. The Palmer St precinct on one hand was transformed into an active eat street and hotel precinct, whilst the Railway Precinct saw patchy development in the same period, although both precincts were the subject of city visions and stimulus by local authorities.

In this case study, the ensuing phenomenon of ‘prolific building growth’ in these dilapidated cityscapes is explored and explained, by what is proposed as the central force of change – ‘the property development mechanism’.

An explanatory model of the ‘property development mechanism’ is created in the setting of dilapidated cityscapes which are seen as a ‘field of activation’ for the mechanism and its actor ‘the property developer’. The reasons for the different levels of activation are explored, and the findings both support and strengthen the model, and form a basis for future exploration and development of the model.To read about the project in more detail please see Jon’s research page “The Seed in the Cityscape” on   Link to Summary Of Doctorate

Dr Jonathan Drane

Read this article as a pdf:


Is Concord the Centre of Gravity of Sydney?

Is Concord the Centre of Gravity of Sydney?

Date: First published 5 June 2015

By Dr Jonathan Drane

PWC Geospatial Model 2015-

Think tanks and seminars continue to be held to try and understand the changing face of the city and its many forms in the  Sydney Basin. This is especially topical in light of the voting power of the west and its dynamic future population projections relative to the east. One graphical model of Sydney based on a geospatial economic lens shows Concord as the ‘centre of gravity of Sydney’

The emergent ‘geo-spatial’ view of the city and other techniques, is grounded in the grinding national statistics of economy and demography.These after all are the foundation statistics of our nation at a macro level, the ABS, census, economic and industry data along with other industry data sets. The resultant analysis and charting of such data can however only ever be as good as the data itself. Whilst we still use the economic or demographic lens as our key visor for the viewing of the city, we will only see it in such terms.

The economic and demographic lens has allowed us to view the city from the stratosphere, through national statistics that were not originally designed to describe the phenomenological changes in the face of the city and its forces and drivers.

Dr Jonathan Drane

Read this article as a pdf:


Read more.




Hello world!!

Jon Drane-5999

Welcome to my new blog and web site. It has been refined to focus on my independent research and advisory profile.

This site is designed to allow prospective clients to understand how I combine my research profile with the analysis of complex construction problems in different situations including legal cases and project situations.

My previous blog which included articles on the city dormancy and property development has been archived and key articles will be revisited here. Please contact us on if you need a particular article.

This site also caters and focuses on my research into city dormancy and urban renewal so that students are able to tap into my works. I encourage students of the built environment to continue my work in this area of city dormancy and development.

My non-fiction book collection including my books on the Camino de Santiago are briefly referred to on this web site and will be expanded in another independent web site.

Thank you for your interest in my work.

Dr Jonathan Drane


Key Papers and Events

Book Now For Dr Drane’s Master Classes on Property Development 

The New Breed of Property Developer

‘Defects A Builders View’ Read More on How the Property Development Industry Got Here

Read More on the State of Contemporary Property Development